This is even more important for a new principal establishing themselves in a new context.
Equally, it is important that once a principal starts down this path of high visibility, that they maintain it throughout their tenure.
This is well known throughout leadership circles. Perhaps of even greater importance than just being seen, is the skill set that needs to be developed to ensure that principals build their credibility whilst being among the school community.
There is little value in a principal putting themselves forward to openly interact with their school community in less structured settings, if they are unable to effectively manage the tricky and sometimes difficult situations that can arise.
An over-zealous parent wishing to engage in a hostile exchange at the school gate at the end of the school day needs to be handled carefully.
As with most challenging situations in principalship, there are also opportunities.
An angry parent well-managed in front of other parents can send a powerful message within the community.
Being able to show that you are taking seriously what is being said, while remaining in control of your own response is a skill that takes time to develop.
Being able to walk up to a parent or group of parents and start a conversation is also an important skill to build.
Developing the skill to walk away from a conversation is also time well spent.
Making oneself available in different settings will also assist a principal in building a wider range of working relationships within the school community.
The same parent that you meet at the school gate may not be involved with the Parents and Citizens Association, but it is still just as important that they have the opportunity to approach their school’s principal.
The opportunity for principals to model interactions with students for staff is an opportunity not to be missed.
A significant amount of research shows how students value seeing their principal in different situations around the school. This can also be said for staff.
The actions and interactions of the principal can send a clearer message as to what is being valued in the school and what the expectations are within the school, more so than a principal talking about how things should be occurring.
Being a highly visible principal is a practice that enables greater contact with all key stakeholders within the school community. It is time well spent.
What principals build during these times are trust and respect; both are vital if principals are to take true leadership roles within their schools.
If principals are to move from managing into education leadership, then respectful, positive working relationships are a must.
Being a highly visible principal is a great way to start building those relationships.
Michael Hooker is principal of Wentworth Falls Public School. He has been a principal with the NSW Department of Education and Communities for the past 15 years.